...a lightness, an emptiness fading into cacophony. “He’s convulsing but he’s quiet.”
“Just wait, it will begin again—“ a screaming, a weeping, tearing and hysterical sobs. A pause, then a tooth-clenched whine that goes on and on and on. Laughter. Screaming. Convulsions. Silent convulsions. Screaming. Weeping. Hysterical sobs. A pause, then the whine.... more Laughter... on, and on and on...
“His heart won’t be able to stand it can you knock him out again?” “Not immediately.” ... a new part of the set. Between the laughter and the screaming... begging for Obedience... begging for death. Begging for life. Begging for punishment. Screaming. Convulsions. Silent convulsions. “It would almost be a mercy to stop that.”
The stench of losing all control, shen and piss and vomit. Why couldn’t I inhale that and just die?
Radas laid the note carefully on the desk in the questioning room, scratched around the earplug and pulled it free. Once Matthas had been truthdrugged it had worn off to this endless round of madness. In the few moments of silence he turned to the priests who had come with the note. “Take him. Tie him up so he doesn’t hurt himself, you see there’s grooves that he’s clawed into his face.”
“Thank you, Minister of Serenity.” They released him from the table and managed to wrestle the spasming man onto their stretcher, setting a gag into his mouth so that he not bit his lips and tongue, gently wiped his face with a cloth to clean the bloody foam from around his mouth. “One of the Ten has called him to the Temple.”
Rafas didn’t say a word as they carried the twitching, struggling man out of the dungeon, except for one thing. He tapped the papers under his glove and said to the Irefas man who’d taken the notes. “He might not be prophecying but he got one thing right. Only a small part of him is still Mahid and it was dying. I’d say it’s probably dead now.”
“I have not ever seen quite so... extreme... a taking up by the Temple.”
“Probably because he wouldn’t enter the building after it saved...”
“... our Minis,” the Irefas man said.
“I find it quite reassuring that I’m hearing that particularly informal mode of address in many people’s mouths,” Rafas said. “He Whose Informality Is His Salvation.”
First Ilesias Mahid barely heard Akminchaer’s admonishment that he rest and not do anything with that arm, with the fresh plaster upon it. “Thank you, healer,” he said. A gold coloured kitten trotted into the clinic and jumped up on Ilesias’s lap without a by-your-leave. He scratched under its chin absently. “I need to go...”
“I know,” Akminchaer said. “The sling is just to remind you to not do anything with it the rest of the day.” The kitten stretched up, sniffed the edge of the plaster and then hopped up into the cave of the sling and after poking its tail up, turned around and settled down in its new sleeve. “The cat will help you remember to keep it still!” The Haian sniffed and packed up his plaster kit.
Ilesias was already limping to the door, where a Page intercepted him with a note. “I’ll be in the Temple, if anyone needs me,” he said to the boy who trotted off.
The instant the stretcher was carried inside the Temple, Matthas stilled, but it wasn’t the rigid stillness of his tooth-grinding whining. His eyes opened, slowly, tracking over the gilded ceiling.
Worshippers paused in their prayers, turning from every level, their voices stilling. The glass harp continued its ethereal notes and the choir drew breath for the next round of hymns. It was still enough that their inhale was audible, as if the Temple itself drew breath.
Ilesias caught up to the strange little procession just inside the door. “Excuse me, Dekinas Itasas.”
“Of course, First Ilesias,” the old man, recently promoted from his solas Temple outside the city. “He is Mahid.”
“Matthas Mahid,” Ilesias said drawing the gag out of the suddenly slack mouth. “Can you hear me?”
The voice that came out of Matthas’s mouth wasn’t, quite, his. There was an odd hesitancy to it. “We can. We are... Matthas and we are Ergas.” A choking noise from one of the younger priests. The voice of the Temple had spoken that word when Shefenkas had done the vote Ten Tens.
“Ergas? Who is Ergas?”
“We are... the Temple.”
Everyone took a step back, even the senior dekinae. “We are Matthas... not Mahid. That aspect of us is counter-productive. The rest will be... fixed. Ergas has a thousand eyes to watch and keep and guard and see. We have become one of this group of consciousness to give the Temple an Arkan voice. Arko needs the Temple to expand. We require... mobility.”
Ilesias hesitated even as a Temple acolyte scurried up to begin scribbling notes of what the newly chosen one said, then he continued as best he could, with the kitten’s ratcheting purr in the sling an odd contrast.
“Matthas? Will you give your word, your oath, not to injure yourself or anyone else? Will you give your oath to the Fenjitzas and the Fenjitza that you will not kill yourself or anyone else?”
“Yes. The first oath. Thou shalt not murder. Yes.” His eyes were not staying on any one person as he spoke, but roved over the priests and the dekinae.
Ilesias nodded to the priests and they came forward slowly, to untie him from the stretcher. “You are not to leave the Temple grounds, or you will be subject to the law and given to the victims of your murders. You are the Temple’s now. Do you understand?”
Matthas sat up, slowly, testing his arms and legs, turning his head, all his joints. He'd been very roughly cleaned up after his questioning, by the Ministry of Serenity, but he still stank.
The choir above burst into “He Shall Raise Thee Up”, voices soaring to Selestialis and the ears of the Gods.
He rose to his feet like a new risen corpse from his bier and his eyes locked on the Fenjitza just coming down the central river of gold tile. “We are the Temple.” He prostrated himself to her with a crash that had even Ilesias wincing as he hit the stone. “We understand.”